3D modeling cuts time for new designs by 50 percent
Solid Edge helps a manufacturer of industrial semi trailers accelerate its modernization process
Corporate modernization requires 3D design
In 1949, Fruehauf became the first manufacturing facility specialized for trailers and semi trailers in Spain. A pioneer in the semi trailer field, Fruehauf today ranks among the leading companies in the sector, with two production units in Spain and one in Portugal as well as an extensive distribution network in Spain, France (under the TOTALTRAILERS trademark) and Portugal (as Invepe).
In 2006 the company launched a complete modernization process which so far has involved an in-depth review of its commercial strategies as well as the renewal of a significant portion of its workforce. The Research & Development and Technical Innovation Department, led by Juan Manual Ortego Bielsa, was well aware that accomplishing these corporate goals would require an upgrade of the company’s design system from a 2D tool to a 3D CAD solution.
Not only did the new 3D solution need to improve design, it also had to act as a foundation for attaining three key objectives: 1) greater product standardization, abandoning the tendency towards excessive customization that had characterized the previous corporate strategy and thus achieving a faster response to market demand; 2) higher quality technical information; and 3) re-use of CAD data by other departments within the company, such as Quality, Marketing and Sales.
Ensure the correct adjustment of parts before production
In March 2007, after rejecting other competing products such as Catia and SolidWorks, Fruehauf introduced the Solid Edge® 3D CAD solution from Siemens PLM Software. With the support of Avantek, the Spanish consultancy firm, Solid Edge was implemented to meet the corporate objectives, as well as the Technical Department’s own goals, which included: design of new vehicles and components; production of manufacturing drawings; analysis of interferences; and the determination of physical properties data (vehicle weight and center of gravity).
The validity of this choice was demonstrated in only seven months, during which time more than 1,000 parts and as many plans were generated as in all of 2006.“And this happened with new people in the Technical Department using a new tool,” notes Ortego.“For new designs, it is possible to estimate the time savings for developing new parts and generating their manufacturing drawings at about 50 percent.”
Today with Solid Edge, Fruehauf designs a broad range of semi trailer vehicles, in both steel and aluminum versions, including platforms for transporting dry loads, container platform semi-trailers, bulk tippers for public works, tippers for transporting scrap, vehicles for transporting machinery and trailers.Of these, vehicles for transporting machinery and, above all, tippers are what make Fruehauf stand out from the rest of the competition.
The tipper is among the most difficult products to design and it is precisely in this type of work that the contributions of the new 3D design solution are most appreciated.“Determining the tilting area for dumpers is a critical task, particularly when the chassis and body components are changing,” explains Ortego.“It is necessary to check every change to verify that there are no interferences with other parts in the axis of rotation between the body and chassis. This is where the 3D simulation of Solid Edge is crucial. Before that, when we were using 2D CAD, we could only see those interferences once the product had been made.”
In production in only one month
The improved visualization made possible by 3D images has helped the manufacturing staff in their interpretation of drawings, reducing errors at the stage of final assembly. This in turn has decreased the costs associated with materials and the time invested in production, as actions no longer need to be repeated.“This solution has played a central role in helping the newly hired staff, both in design and in manufacturing, settle rapidly into their new roles,” explains Ortego.“Following a 40-hour training period, we had Solid Edge in production in only one month. Its use is very intuitive and it offers a large number of functions.
“I would like to stress how easy it is to work with sheet metal in Solid Edge,” Ortego continues. “Also, the software’s capacity to customize templates for the generation of drawings makes it possible to build standardized sets of products that everyone can use. Its accuracy in calculating physical properties, and its interference detection functionality are also very beneficial.”
Today, Fruehauf is using Solid Edge to design 100 percent of its new products and is currently in the process of converting its 2D library into 3D. The advanced properties of this tool have allowed Fruehauf to build new functionality into its products, such as the integration of an automatically folding bumper that was designed for the French market. This innovation allows the body of a tipper to tilt without having to retract the bumper manually.“Thanks to Solid Edge we were able to examine different configurations until we found a suitable location that would allow it to operate without hampering the other parts located in that area,” Ortego says.
The technical and manufacturing staff is not the only beneficiary of the six Solid Edge licenses (used by 10 people). The use of Solid Edge has increased the level of trust in the work that is subcontracted to various suppliers because the security offered by Solid Edge increases the quality of the final product. In addition, due to the clarity of 3D drawings, there is no room for erroneous interpretations on the part of suppliers when they are assembling parts. Solid Edge designs are saved in neutral formats, IGES or as AutoCAD format to be shared seamlessly with third parties.
Fruehauf has discovered that the potential of Solid Edge does not end in the work carried out by the engineering department. Through the use of the free Solid Edge viewer, documentation is made available to other departments in the company. In concrete terms, this means that the quality department, for example, can access the server where the Solid Edge data is kept to address any doubts or queries that may arise.
The goal is that Production, Sales and Customer Service will also benefit from the advantages of 3D representation. “Final drawings have potential as tools for Marketing and Sales, such as images for brochures,” Ortego explains.“This is what the heads of these departments conveyed to us. Also, using the web publishing functionality of Solid Edge, we are able to include the images on our web page and build an on-line catalogue. And thanks to the advanced capabilities of this solution in determining physical properties, we have been able to supply the sales team with more detailed technical information that lets them respond with accurate data in their offers.”
As a next step in its modernization process, Fruehauf intends to implement a project document management (PDM) system for the group’s three technical departments. This will be done to increase the reliability and security of the data while increasing the efficiency of corporate communications. With a yearly output of 2,500 units, Fruehauf should rank in the second position in Spain among the top domestic manufacturers in this sector.